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Britons woke up on 7/7

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August 11, 2005 00:34 IST

Part I: Welcome to Londonistan

Speaking of the ISI's ability to calibrate terrorism, consider the events of 7/7 and 7/21.

Immediately after 7/7, it became obvious that there were plenty of Pakistani links, and this put General Musharraf in the hot seat. He responded with bluster that British terrorism was home-grown, and that it had nothing in particular to do with Pakistan.

How could Pakistan prove its injured innocence? The ISI came up with a brilliant plan: Pakistanis have clearly learned the art of diplomatic theatre from their friends the Chinese. They would get hold of a couple of naïve 'sleepers' suffused with Islamic angst, engineer a copycat suicide bomber attack, but give them explosives that would not explode, so that they would get caught and would spill the beans, or as much as they knew, which would be rather little. Terrific diversionary tactic, indeed.

Lo and behold, the abortive 7/21 affair. The would-be anarchists, an Eritrean, a Somali and an Ethiopian (caught in an apartment in London teargassed by the police, and humiliatingly marched out in their underwear, as faithfully recorded by television cameras) were indeed arrested. Now what are the odds against four explosive-laden backpacks all failing accidentally, especially when all four had worked on 7/7? Astronomical, surely. So the backpacks were not meant to explode.

Envoy Maleeha Lodhi immediately seized on the arrests. Here are excerpts from her statement from the New York Times report 'Europe meets the new face of terrorism'

"When the first bombing happened and everyone focused on Pakistan, we said, 'You may be making a mistake if you have a unifocal view,' " said Maleeha Lodhi, Pakistan's ambassador to Britain, in an interview. "It's much more mixed up than people think. What you're seeing is something very lethal and it has nothing to do with ethnicity."

"We are seeing a lot of local groups that seem to have a random pattern, no operational linkage or even inspirational linkage," she said. "Some may claim to be Al Qaeda, some not, and that is foxing everybody."

How convenient for the telegenic Maleeha Lodhi! Methinks milady doth protest too much. How very handy to exonerate Pakistan! How very likely this was intended to be so, and the East Africans were meant to be the fall guys! Rather clever, the ISI is.

Yes, in the immortal words of Robin Raphel, Pakistan is truly the 'moderate, modern, model' Islamic State. All's well with the world, and Americans can resume supplying F-16s, Spruance-class destroyers, P3-C Orions and other materiel to Major Non-Nato Ally Pakistan, never mind India's concerns about an arms race being imposed on it.

Most interesting was the response of the police and the public in Britain to the bombings. They, stiff upper lip and all, have agreed to put limits on their civil rights hoping this would help avoid reprises. The 'shoot-to-kill' order has been accepted as a necessary, if unfortunate, fact of life. Even when an apparently innocent Brazilian was shot in the subway, the police did not cave in with mea culpas. Nor did anyone else. There were no cases by 'liberals' filed about the Brazilian's rights, so far as I know.

Here's an excerpt from a newspaper editorial: "The biggest mistake the police made was not the most obvious one of shooting the wrong man… The biggest mistake was not to properly prepare the public for sustained campaign of violence facing the country… More should have been done to prepare the public for the forceful response needed to protect them." The conservative Wall Street Journal? No, the arch-leftist Guardian! So when whites get hurt, all 'progressive' sentiments are out the window. Would India's oh-so-smug, holier-than-thou English language media ever write such an editorial?

Strangely enough, India's army of bleeding-hearts and 'human rights' mafioso, including those who live in London, did not find this to be a serious ethical dilemma: they too don't want to die on the Tube in an explosion. I guess it's NIMBY: not in my backyard. Imagine the fuss they would make if Indian policemen were allowed to shoot-to-kill.

The fact of the matter is that terrorists, those who are intent on taking the lives of innocents (as in the dictionary, not an Islamist definition that ipso facto says a non-Muslim cannot be an innocent), should be treated as beyond the pale: they have forfeited all rights and all expectation of leniency.

It is apparent that Britons realise that the human rights of the terrorist are not greater than those of the average citizen. Contrast this with India, where terrorists have far more rights than average, law-abiding citizens; in fact, only terrorists have rights, because their victims, generally Hindus, have no rights. This is an axiom among the chatterati.

A famous bleeding-heart in India opined after the recent Ayodhya attack that the dead terrorists should not be referred to as terrorists. In case it hurt their tender sentiments, and we can't have that, can we? An alternative name was not suggested, but perhaps 'the boys' or 'misguided youths' -- so innocent -- would be the preferred appellation, as in the vocabulary of the chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir. I suppose instead of shooting at them, the police should also have plied the Ayodhya 'boys' with lamb biriyani, as was infamously done during a siege in J&K.

Will a stronger and more intrusive police-State stop terrorism anywhere? Probably not. The root causes have to be addressed in a clear-eyed manner bereft of cheap sentimentality. India tried cheap sentiment as the carrot: appeasement, and that has not worked. The British tried the carrot, and now may start trying the stick. The Americans tried the stick as in outright war, but are now beating a bit of a tactical retreat because of imperial overstretch. So what might work?

One possibility: I hear the Americans have considered serious escalation in war-game scenarios. If there's another major attack on US soil, they may put these into effect. These scenarios up the ante quite a bit, and include substantial psychological warfare, aimed at demoralising terrorists from a religious perspective. It remains to be seen if things will come to this pass; but the Americans can be brutal if need be. They know a little counter-terror can go a long way. Will this threat be sufficient? Who knows?

Britons woke up to the facts of life on 7/7. They are now staring at something far more implacable than the Irish Republican Army (which, amusingly, instantly announced an end to armed struggle, which may well have something to do with the Republic of Ireland's sudden prosperity trickling down into the British colony of Northern Ireland). Welcome to the real world: many of us have lived with this sort of danger hanging over us for long. Now you Britons can enjoy the same.

Comments welcome on my blog


Rajeev Srinivasan